Coronavirus, Education, Featured Post, Uncategorized — May 20, 2020 at 7:52 pm

Welcome Back to School! But Not So Fast…


As someone who visits a lot of schools each year to observe student teachers and work with my colleagues in the schools, a few thoughts on these newly-released CDC “back to school” guidelines…

• kids can’t keep their shoes and socks on for a full school day…masks?
• no shared items? everything in school is shared…pencils are shared, books are shared, construction paper is shared, glue is shared, drum sticks and mallets and tubas and bari saxes are shared, desks are shared, art supplies are shared…no school I’ve been in in the past 20 years has enough cubbies for each child to have their own. and let’s not even get started on morning and afternoon kindergarten rooms…
• unless we are reducing class sizes to single digits there is no way to keep desks at a 6 foot distance–and our ed reform friends have been telling us for decades that smaller class sizes are “inefficient and do not improve students’ test scores,” so that one is not happening…
• one child per seat and skip rows on school buses? yeah, right…adding another bus run in a public school budget is like crossing the River Styx–it just ain’t gonna happen.
• we can’t get sneeze guards installed in school salad bars…
• a “one way route” in many schools will require children and teachers exiting the school, walking completely around the building, perhaps in snow, rain, and/or mud, and reentering the school at the other side of the building–and yes, any architect who designed horseshoe-shaped schools was not real bright
• you *might* be able to get teachers to keep their classes in their rooms to eat lunch, but no shared playgrounds? what is a “personal playground”? so no recess? for young children?
• as if a plexiglass shield in a middle school bathroom would remain clean–we haven’t had doors that close in school restrooms for decades; sometimes no doors at all
• good luck keeping “visitors” out of schools–how will student teachers get observed? who does professional development? who picks up sick kids, or takes them to doctor appointments, or to the orthodontist? what about blood drives in rural communities, where the school’s gym or band/chorus room is the largest space in the county? schools are not just places for children and teachers–they function as the center of a community; keeping the community out is not what schools are about
• same kids stay with same staff all day–no switching groups or teachers…so no music, no art, no PE, no library, no special ed? no gifted & talented? no planning periods? how about middle and high schools, where students change classes every period all day long? has anyone at the CDC ever been in a school???
• staggering arrival and departure times will increase the number of times per day that children are entering and leaving school buildings, which would seem to be the most likely times for large numbers of kids to be congregating in the same spaces–it also wreaks havoc on district transportation schedules and staffing patterns, meaning we’ll need more buses, drivers, and teachers
• daily health and temperature checks with no school nurses? will this be yet another responsibility added to a teacher’s workload? and what if someone makes a mistake with taking a child’s temp, or doesn’t “catch” a health problem? who is held accountable? is there even enough liability insurance in the world to cover this?
• I’m thinking of the times I’ve been sneezed on, puked on, bled on, the number of times I’ve tied a kid’s shoelaces and asked if it was raining because their laces were wet and then told, “that’s not water,” how many bandaids I’ve applied, tears I’ve wiped away, noses I’ve wiped, tissues I’ve held…and the CDC thinks I can supervise hand washing for 120 kids without a sink in my room?

Look…no one wants schools to open again more than I do. I abhor everything about online teaching, and–like every single teacher I know–miss being in the classroom with my students something fierce.

I can’t wait to see my returning students, can’t wait to meet the new ones, and can’t wait to be with my colleagues–my other “family”–again.

And, like every teacher I know, I’ll do whatever I can to make that return to school happen as soon as possible.

But not with a patchwork quilt of poorly thought through “accommodations” and work-arounds, and an almost complete lack of planning for a totally new, temporary, and emergency approach to schooling millions of students. Not to mention a new round of draconian budget cuts for public schools even as our friends in industry and finance are getting bailed out. Again.

We talk a lot about how our “children are the future”, and how they are the most important things in our lives.

But reopening schools without asking the experts–teachers–what they think is a recipe for making a bad situation a whole lot worse.